NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Suki Godek and her husband, Todd, are homeless and recently moved into a tiny home.
It’s 100 square feet and equipped with storage space, a bed, and battery-operated lights and fan.
Suki Godek said it’s a lifesaver after the city demolished their tent city on Ella Grasso Boulevard in March.
“It’s been a really big, positive shift for my husband and me,” Suki Godek said. “It, kind of, gave us a purpose.”
The Godeks are among eight homeless individuals living in six tiny homes built in the backyard of Amistad House on Rosette Street.
In order to live there, residents must do community service.
“[It] kind of gave us back that sense of dignity,” Suki Godek said.
Mark Colville, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, is the activist behind the project. He said said that $123,000 was raised in private funding, and the homes are cost-efficient.
“It’s not like we just set these [homes] up as if they were tents,” Colville said. “We did this in a legal way, respecting building codes and zoning laws and such.”
But New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said the group did not get approval and the structures do not meet building requirements.
“They did not go through the process that every other property owner in the city is expected to and goes through, and so we’ve got to do things legally for fairness,” Elicker said.
The city sent Colville two cease and desist letters, citing safety concerns.
Colville said activists did not mean to break the law, but they need to act now.
“We are not interested in being housing developers,” Colville said. “We are human rights defenders, and that’s why these houses are up.”
The two sides said they share the same goal — to support those struggling with shelter. They’re open to working together to get the tiny homes up to code.
“We stand ready, should they want to engage in a legal pathway,” Elicker said.
“I don’t think we’re far apart in terms of how to get that pathway forward, so I’m very optimistic,” Colville said.
Suki Godek is also optimistic.
“We’re really hoping that things will work out here because it definitely feels like home,” she said.
Elicker said that unless the group gets the tiny homes up to code, they have to remove them.
The mayor added that along with more affordable housing units, a temporary 50-bed shelter, and converting a vacant school into a warming center; the city is exploring how they can legally build tiny homes in the elm city.